5 key factors in choosing care management applications

As providers direct care for more patients, many are reassessing tech choices.

5 key factors in choosing care management applications

Care management solutions—which identify and assess patients, create care plans, communicate with patients and alter care plan goals over time—is maturing. As value-based care takes hold, and providers take on more risk in caring for patient populations, the concept of care management has grown in importance. It’s no longer just reserved for patients who need “high-touch care interventions,” say researchers at Chilmark Research—healthcare organizations are increasingly broadening the reach of care management “to include the rising risk population.”

The market for care management software to support care team administration, patient screening and assessment, worklists, provider communications and event notifications has also grown in the last year, Chilmark says in its recently released 2017 Care Management Market Trends Report. Even as providers are increasingly using care management, most of the technology solutions available to them is far from fully grown and accepted. Functionality that is readily available often goes unused as its value proposition to clinical staff is poorly stated.

As value-based care takes hold, healthcare IT executives should consider the following factors in looking at solutions that will help their organizations better manage patient care.

1. There is no single solution for all care management needs

Even as vendors augment existing offerings or roll out new ones, there is no single solution that can address every care management need of a healthcare organization. Of the vendors that have used the last year to reevaluate their go-to-market strategies for care management, it’s no coincidence that the majority are those that Chilmark classifies as independent or best-of-breed vendors aiming to provide an all-in-one solution.

Healthcare organizations have accepted that there is not one care management product that meets all needs. They do not want to purchase, implement and maintain one solution for each phase of the lifecycle of patient care—they are looking for two or three solutions, not five or six.

2. Automation remains a hard sell

Many aspects of the care management process can theoretically be automated. These can include adding patients to programs, assigning patients to care teams, setting due dates for tasks or goals, and sending reminders or educational information to patients. Healthcare organizations are willing to automate some operations, such as communications or cohort assignment, but prefer to do things manually when it comes to care decisions for individual patients.

As vendors fine-tune their rules engines, healthcare organizations will need to see concrete, published evidence that automating care management provides a demonstrable return on investment, such as reducing the number of full-time equivalent staff, improving patient adherence and engagement, and decreasing utilization of high-acuity or specialty services.

3. Providers aim to improve the user experience

Many care management solutions continue to migrate manual workflows to a digital environment with little regard for usability, leaving users to sift through pull-down menus or tabs to find what they need. Simple tasks require myriad clicks, and useful information remains difficult to find. Nurse care managers working with scarce resources in a high-pressure environment can’t waste time using software that makes their jobs even more difficult.

4. Patient engagement remains a key goal

The digitization of industries such as banking, retail and travel has increased the number of touchpoints between customers and companies. Healthcare has taken the opposite approach, minimizing the number of touchpoints that patients have—and then, providers wonder why patient portal adoption is so low and engagement is so poor.

For care management solutions to achieve their potential, they must increase the number of interactions with patients and caregivers. Vendors need to demonstrate to healthcare organizations that more interactions do not necessarily translate to more in-office visits. Automated communications, messaging, video visits, notifications and other features common to consumer apps can relieve the pressure on clinical staff to address low-priority inquiries from patients, enabling them to focus on high-priority cases.

5. Potential change in Washington is no reason to delay

Whatever happens on Capitol Hill over the next four years, patients will still receive care, healthcare organizations will still deliver care, and insurers will still pay for care. In other words, the healthcare industry’s fundamental mission will not change.

Vendors may be tempted to maintain the wait-and-see approach that all too frequently stifles healthcare innovation, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the transition to value-based care will continue – and that healthcare organizations need help in making that transition.

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